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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Judges 7

 

 

Introduction

Judges 6-8. Gideon Delivers Israel from the Midianites.—The next war was waged, not against disciplined soldiers, but against a horde of nomads from the eastern desert. The Midianites are represented in the OT sometimes as peaceful shepherds (Exodus 2:15 f.*), sometimes as caravan traders (Genesis 37:28; Genesis 37:36), and sometimes as Bedouin marauders. It was in the last of these rôles that they became a plague to the Israelites, especially to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. The hero chosen to deliver the nation from them was the Manassite Gideon, who was impelled by various motives—patriotism, for he identified himself with his oppressed people (Judges 6:13); personal revenge, for some of his own brothers had been murdered by the raiders (Judges 8:19); and, above all, the consciousness of a Divine vocation and inspiration (Judges 6:14; Judges 6:34). The memory of his victory became a proudly cherished tradition, and centuries afterwards a reference to "the Day of Midian" still reminded Israel how "the yoke of his (Israel's) burden, and the staff of his shoulder, and the rod of his oppressor" had been broken (Isaiah 9:4; cf. Isaiah 10:26, Psalms 83:9). Time added picturesque details to the original story, and editors attempted, without complete success, to fuse the various elements into a literary whole.


Verses 1-8

Judges 7:1-8. The Reduction of Gideon's Army.—This section teaches that Yahweh is the giver of victory, and that it is as easy for Him to save by few as by many (1 Samuel 14:6). The spring of Harod ("trembling," cf. Judges 7:3) may be ‘Ain Jâlûd, 2 m. from Jezreel, at the foot of Gilboa (p. 30). The hill of Moreh may be Little Hermon. Gilead (Judges 7:3) is on the eastern side of the Jordan, and we should probably read Gilboa.

Judges 7:3. The number of those who, in modern phrase, showed the white feather, is surprisingly great. Gideon lets them go, having no use for the "fearful and trembling."

Judges 7:5. The second test is a very singular one, and has given interpreters much trouble. The words "putting their hand to their mouth" are evidently wrong where they stand. They should either be struck out as a gloss, or transferred to the end of the verse, where they would explain how the majority drank on their knees, But why should those who put their lips into the stream and lapped like a dog, instead of using their hands, be chosen as alone fit for the combat? Was it because they did not let their weapons leave their hands for a moment? Or because they were satisfied with a little water, when they might have drunk their fill? Or was the test purely arbitrary? "If any significance may be ascribed to the way in which the 300 drank, we should find it in the comparison to dogs; they were the rude, fierce men; compare the name Caleb" (Moore).


Verses 9-15

Judges 7:9-15. Gideon's Visit to the Midfanite Camp.—The heroic leader was next encouraged, not by a dream of his own, but by one which he heard told at night in the camp of the enemy. The significant features of the dream are the tent, the symbol of the Midianite nomads, and the cake of barley bread, the symbol of the Israelite peasants. As the little barley cake overturns the huge tent, so Israel is to defeat the host of Midian.

Judges 7:14. Read "This is nothing but the men of Israel," the words "Gideon the son of Joash" being probably a later insertion. It is not Gideon, but Gideon's little band of gallant yeomen (Judges 7:15 b), that corresponds to the dreamer's cake.


Verses 16-25

Judges 7:16-25. The Night Alarm and Rout.—Gideon's stratagem consisted in the division of his small force into three companies, who charged the enemy from three sides at once, making an uproar and producing a panic.

Judges 7:18. The battle-cry agreed upon was "For Yahweh and for Gideon!" When the actual conflict began, many or all prefixed to this "A sword," suggested by the gleaming weapons they had unsheathed. The words express with splendid terseness a double loyalty, to God and a trusted leader; an ideal, Yahweh's victory and glory; and a means of attaining it, the sword.

Judges 7:20. If each soldier carried a trumpet, a torch, an empty pitcher, and a sword, his hands were too full. There are awkward repetitions in the narrative (see Judges 7:20 and Judges 7:22), and it is possible that the trumpets are derived from one source, the jars and torches from another.

Judges 7:23. It is strange to see how the men who had no heart for the attack are ready to join in the pursuit. Some think that the verse is a later addition.

Judges 7:24. The words "even Jordan" (twice) seem meaningless. Perhaps we should read with the Peshitto "as far as Bethbara upon (the bank of) Jordan."

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Judges 7:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/judges-7.html. 1919.

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